How Where You Live Can Increase Your Risk for Cancer. Radon and Bracken Fern As Cancer-causers.
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How Where You Live Can Increase Your Risk for Cancer. Radon and Bracken Fern As Cancer-causers.

Awareness of where you live in relation to cancer-causers

Where you live can cause cancer:  Does your home state increase your risk of developing cancer?  In fact, if you live in the northeast United States, you are at higher risk of developing breast and colon cancer than Southerners or Westerners, according to research from the American Cancer Society. 

Benzopyrene, a pollutant generated by automotive exhaust, tobacco smoke, and power and industrial plants, seems to promote cancer development, says a study by biochemist Jack Bartley in Berkley, California.  It is found in higher concentrations in the Northeast.  Even if you don't live in an area with air pollution, where you live can still be dangerous. 

Radon gas in homes may be the second leading cause of lung cancer, according to the Environmental protection Agency (EPA).  Radon gas is a radioactive by-product of uranium and radium that has been found in over 30 states.  It is a colorless, odorless gas that can seep undetected into a house through concrete floors, floor drains, cracks, or even through your water if you have a private well.  You absorb radon into your lungs when you breathe contaminated smoke and dust particles.  To check your home's radon gas level, call your local health department or the Radon Information Service sponsored by the EPA.  Some (do it yourself) DIY radon testing kits are now available on the market so you can test your own home for contamination. 

Also check your neighborhood for large chemical plants, polluted water or waste disposal areas.  Living close to these places increases your risk of getting cancer. 


Common U.S. fern linked to high cancer rates:  The bracken fern, one  of the world's most common plants, has been linked to cancer in animals who eat it and to high rates of cancer in people who live or work in bracken-covered areas, the Medical Tribune reports.  Two field guides to edible wild plants in America recommended eating this plant, either cooked or raw.  A recent report from Europe, however, accuses the same plant of being a potent cancer-causer.  Deer, cattle and sheep that graze on bracken develop mouth and stomach cancers, the article says. 

Studies from Costa Rica and Venezuela showed that people who drink milk from cows that have grazed on bracken, in turn, develop more cancers of the stomach and esophagus, the Tribune article says.  The fern under fire is known scientifically as Pteridium aquilinum and is commonly known in this country as pasture brake, eagle fern, breaks, hot brake and break fern.  It is the single most common wild fern in the United States.  It grows easily in full sunlight, in woods, old pastures, new roadsides, burned-over regions, sandy and partially shaded areas and in thickets, according to Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants (Stackpole Books).  Still another manual, Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants (Outdoor Life Books) lists bracken as a, related edible species, to ostrich fern.  In the guide, bracken was considered a non-poisonous plant.  Even getting close to bracken may be hazardous, the Tribune report suggests.  One expert recommends that anyone who goes often into areas in which bracken covers the ground should wear a face mask to limit exposure to bracken spores.  The spores are thought to contain several powerful cancer-causing substances such as shikimik milk, quercetin and ptaquiloside.  People who should wear face masks include, shepherds, forestry workers, and even hikers and backpackers, says Dr. Jim Taylor of University College in Wales (Great Britain) and chairperson of the International Bracken Group.  People may also be affected by drinking water from bracken-covered slopes, and by drinking milk from cows who have eaten bracken, he warns. 

Bracken is one of the first ferns to appear in the spring.  It grows to a height of from one to four feet, adding new leaves throughout the warm months.  The darkly green fronds look heavy and leathery.  The fern spreads by oozing a toxic chemical into the ground that poisons all surrounding plants competing for the same space.  These same poisons can affect both animals and people, according to the Tribune report.  The potentially dangerous spores are released from the maturing plant from June through October. 

A further note:  Much research has been done on cancer-causing chemicals in recent years.  Anyone who relies on field guides for safely stalking wild asparagus and other such wild delicacies should be sure the material has been printed very recently and contains the most up-to-date scientific information.  Check with your doctor or an expert in plant-produced chemicals about questionable plants.  Safest bet of all:  If it's wild, and your in doubt, don't eat it.  And, in the case of bracken fern, don't even get near it.

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Comments (7)

Excellent article!!!

Great article. I'll be sure to google a brackenfern picture so I know what it looks like. Thanks.

Ranked #21 in Cancer & Therapy

This is an excellent, informative article - thanks a lot Thomas

Thank you all for your comments, you all are too kind, just doing my duty to inform everyone of the severity of this topic that many are unaware of. T2 all.

Erin Brockovich would be love this article! Good job Thomas. I ad no idea about the bracken fern! xo

Mike Jones


Thanks for the interesting article on how where you live could put you at a higher risk of developing colon cancer.

I have a friend that’s fighting stage 4 colon cancer so I know what a dreadful disease it is.

I had my first colonoscopy at age 50. A polyp was found and removed. I’m now 58 and I had my second colonoscopy a few weeks ago. Nothing was found this time.

I just want to remind and encourage everyone to get screened for colon cancer. The procedure itself (colonoscopy) is not painful, with the possible exception of the I.V. The preparation the day before is a little inconvenient. Plan to be close to a bathroom.

The ‘official’ guideline is to have a colonoscopy if you are older than 50 and every 10 years thereafter. That is, if you’re at average risk. Check with your physician. Schedule an appointment today!

Great article